Manchester United have secured their place in their 21st FA Cup Final with a penalty shootout victory over Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday. Just one game away from winning their 13th FA Cup overall, and second trophy of the season, former Manchester United striker Louis Saha believes that regardless of whether his former club defeat Manchester City in the final on June 3rd, that their Carabao Cup victory in February would represent a greater achievement than Arsenal finishing second in the Premier League, if the Gunners are to to lose out on the title in the remaining few weeks of the season. Louis spoke to Betfred regarding why he believes a loss at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday would put an end to Arsenal’s title hopes, why he can see Ivan Toney at Manchester United and why David de Gea needs greater competition at Old Trafford.
Manchester United bounced back from their Europa League exit with a penalty shootout victory over Brighton on Sunday, booking their place in the FA Cup final. What do you believe the victory said about Manchester United’s mentality?
“It says a lot about their mentality as Sevilla was difficult for them on Thursday night. Against Brighton, they restored some pride and some of the players were brilliant. Brighton were sharp in the semi-final and Manchester United showed that their confidence wasn’t lacking as they were able to defend very well. Manchester United were very good and it was a much improved performance.”
And how do you rate Manchester United’s chances ahead of the FA Cup Final at the beginning of June against Manchester City?
“It’s a cup game, it’s a game at Wembley and you know that Manchester City are one of the best teams in the world, but Manchester United are growing in confidence. They’ve previously shown that they can beat Manchester City and it’s going to be a very difficult game. It’s going to be a very brilliant game to be a part of.”
If Manchester United fail to win the FA Cup, do you believe that a Carabao Cup win and a top four finish would be considered a successful season?
“Yes. We’re all disappointed as winning the Europa League is arguably a bigger statement than the Carabao Cup. The Europa League should be renamed the Sevilla Cup, they’re so good in it! We can still recognise the growth of Manchester United this season, they’ve been away from the top for a while, but the way they play now is much better and they play with more consistency than they have done in recent years. It’s already been a great season and there’s confidence there to be built upon next season. It’s a bright future for the club.”
If Arsenal fail to win the Premier League title this season, then do you believe Manchester United have had a more successful season than them?
“I would agree with this statement in some way. At the start of the season you would have considered Arsenal finishing second in the table as an achievement, but considering how long they’ve led in the title race this season, it would be really sad to see them lose out on winning the Premier League title in the final few games. I think everybody can respect Mikel Arteta’s work with Arsenal up until now and some of their performances, from a fairly young team, have been absolutely top drawer.
“Manchester United have already won one trophy this season, so if Arsenal fail to win the Premier League title, then I believe Manchester United’s season will be deemed a more successful one.”
And who do you believe will win the Premier League title?
“I believe the title will be decided if Manchester City beat Arsenal this week. For me, it will be over if Arsenal lose at the Etihad. Both teams have done unbelievably well this season and it’s hard to predict an outcome for the game because Arsenal could hurt Manchester City. We all love drama and suspense and this title race has been excellent for the fans. It’s up to Arsenal to take this opportunity because they’ve been brilliant all season.”
David de Gea, who’s reportedly on the verge of signing a contract extension with Manchester United, had a mistake ridden performance against Sevilla on Thursday night before bouncing back with an excellent performance on Sunday against Brighton. Ultimately, do you think it’s a mistake to offer De Gea a contract extension and do you believe Manchester United are in need of a new goalkeeper?
“He shouldn’t be Manchester United’s guaranteed starting goalkeeper next season. David needs improvement and he can still improve under Erik ten Hag, but he needs competition for that starting berth at Manchester United. He’s not going to be playing for another ten years, so Manchester United need that competition for him now and he needs to be put under pressure. He needs to be a goalkeeper that can remain consistent over an entire season and if another goalkeeper was to come in, then maybe that would provide David with that pressure and give him the platform to improve.”
Jadon Sancho has faced criticism recently regarding his recent performances. Do you believe he’s fighting for his long-term future at Old Trafford?
“He has to fight, he has to give more and he knows that. He should be hurt by the criticism regarding his performances and despite having so much quality, maybe his main issue is overthinking what the opposition is going to do. Players like Jadon need arrogance to perform and show their quality and I’m still a huge supporter of him and it’s not fair to assume that he’s not going to start producing. He’s a brilliant player, but mentally he has to stop thinking so much. He needs to believe in his body, in his speed and in his teammates.
“When your teammates are either less creative or tired during a game, then you look to players such as Jadon to perform. Jadon needs to get back to the basics of his game, not overthink things and naturally things should begin to go in his favour.”
If you were to identify the key areas in Manchester United’s squad that are in need of incomings, then which areas would you identify?
“A striker and possibly a midfielder if there’s room for one. When you want to win three or four trophies in a season, then you need a big squad. You need a squad that doesn’t only have the right amount of quality, but they all need to have the right mentality to perform as well. They need a striker that can link with players like Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Antony and Bruno Fernandes and improve their chances of scoring as a collective. That type of player is certainly missing at the moment.”
Would you like to see Marcel Sabitzer join Manchester United on a permanent basis? How successful do you believe his loan spell has been?
“I think it’s been very successful. He’s adapted to a new league and he’s shown great spirit when he’s either been helping out his defence or the attack. He’s clearly a very clever footballer with great versatility and is of a similar ilk to John O’Shea, Phil Neville or Quinton Fortune back in the day. I really like Marcel’s spirit, how he’s always working hard and I’m sure he’s a player that the club would like to keep, considering how respected he is and how he’s been performing.”
Fikayo Tomori, who last week helped AC Milan advance to the Champions League semi-finals, is said to be of interest to Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. Do you believe Fikayo is a defender with a big future and would you welcome his potential addition at Old Trafford?
“If Manchester United are to sell any of their defenders this summer, then there’s a lot of centre-backs who have been rumoured as a potential incoming in that area of the squad and Fikayo is certainly a good option and he’s done very well for AC Milan. The club is currently proving that they’re on the right track and have the potential to achieve a lot, so any young player would be interested in a move to Manchester United.”
Victor Lindelof put in a man of the match display against Brighton in the FA Cup semi-final . Do you want to see Manchester United hold onto him this summer?
“Victor’s been a great servant to Manchester United. He never complains, he’s very honest, very relaxed and he’s great in the dressing room. He’s a warrior and even though he may make mistakes sometimes, he’s been brilliant. The spirit of the squad is equally as important as the quality within it and any manager would be impressed by Victor’s reliability, so for that reason I don’t believe he’d fit the profile of a player that the club would want to sell this summer.”
Football Insider have claimed that Manchester United are interested in Wolves midfielder Matheus Nunes. Liverpool have previously been linked with a move for him, but do you believe he’s done enough for Wolves this season to warrant a step up to one of the Premier League’s biggest clubs?
“Manchester United represents a big step up. At the moment they should have the right balance of players in the squad that should provide guarantees in terms of consistency and performance. The market is crazy because a player can have around ten or so good games and be linked with a big money move to a club such as Manchester United. I’ve seen Chelsea make decisions such as that and I don’t believe it’s an example that Manchester United should follow.”
Are you excited by rumours linking Brighton’s Alexis Mac Allister with a move to Manchester United?
“He’s a very good player, he’s a World Cup winner and there are no doubts about his quality. He would provide Manchester United with a greater guarantee than some of the midfielders who have been linked with them in recent times. Manchester United do have a lot of midfielders currently in the squad however, so a player or two may have to leave before an addition can come in, otherwise there’s going to be a number of players unhappy with their lack of game time. However, many of the midfielders linked with a move to Manchester United don’t acquire the variety of attributes that Jude Bellingham has. He’s such a great prospect.”
Who do you believe has been Manchester United’s player of the season?
“That’s a tough one. To be totally honest, I believe that accolade goes to either Casemiro or Marcus Rashford. Those two players have been absolutely amazing in different ways. It would be good for Marcus to get it as he’s a player that depends on confidence and he’s been absolutely top drawer.”
Vincent Kompany and Julian Nagelsmann are said to be the frontrunners to be the next Tottenham Hotspur manager. Who do you want to see Tottenham appoint ahead of next season?
“I feel for the Tottenham fans because I don’t believe the club has the right structure in place to bring in a top level manager. Once they’ve sorted that problem, then yes, somebody like Vincent Kompany would be great, but it all depends on what the project is going to be. It’s not clear what changes the hierarchy at the club want to make, so they have to think clearly about what identity they want to have first.”
It looks as if Mauricio Pochettino is on the verge of becoming the next Chelsea manager. Do you expect him to be a success at Stamford Bridge?
“I’ve always really liked Mauricio Pochettino. I rate him, I believe he’s a top manager and I felt very sorry for him when he was dismissed by Paris Saint-Germain. He did a brilliant job at Tottenham and I believe he would be a logical choice for Chelsea.
“The messages from Chelsea’s board however, in regards to what they want for the club, have been very unclear. I read an interview recently with Didier Drogba, where he stated that he didn’t recognise Chelsea anymore. They have a problem with their identity, so they need to establish what identity they want to appear to have before selecting a new manager.”
Newcastle United have reportedly joined the race to sign West Ham captain Declan Rice. How influential a signing would Declan be to Newcastle United’s long-term ambitions?
“Newcastle United are growing very fast and they punished every mistake Tottenham made on Sunday. Their progression has been amazing and an addition of Declan’s quality will allow them to improve next season. I believe he could easily adapt alongside Bruno Guimarães and he’s a signing that makes sense for Newcastle. Declan Rice is one of the best players in his position.”
Declan Rice’s England colleague James Maddison is also tipped to move to St James’ Park this summer. Do you believe he’d be an excellent signing for your former club?
“I think he will be, yes. The quality he’s shown in the Premier League in recent years has been undeniable, but there are still things for him to improve on. Leicester City have had a tough season, but James has still shown his quality at times. I do think he’s a quality player, that’s very creative and he’s the type of player that Newcastle United needs if they’re to compete in the Champions League.
“Buying a player that’s already played in the Premier League provides Newcastle with a guarantee in terms of his adaptability and these signings are really important when you’re a club that has the room for growth that Newcastle has.”
Ivan Toney is rumoured to be of interest to his former club Newcastle United. Do you believe he’s one of the best strikers in the Premier League? Do you believe Manchester United should be monitoring a potential move for Toney as well considering their need for a new centre-forward?
“Ivan is a great player and he only just missed out on a place in England’s World Cup squad in the winter. I like his style, his confidence and he could certainly help a club like Newcastle United, but I could also see him at a bigger club such as Manchester United. Having his level of consistency in the Premier League is not an easy thing to achieve and in addition to that, he provides a lot of answers, he’s very good on the ball, can drop deep and provide quality link-up play. Signing him would make sense for both Newcastle United and Manchester United.”